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Tharp v. Catron Interior Systems, Inc

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 23, 2017

DAVID THARP, Board of Trustees Chairman, on behalf of INDIANA/KENTUCKY/OHIO REGIONAL COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS PENSION FUND, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
CATRON INTERIOR SYSTEMS, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) (Filing No. 78). The Plaintiffs in this case are: (1) David Tharp, Board of Trustees Chairman, and Doug Robinson, Board of Trustees Secretary, on behalf of Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Fund (the “Pension Fund”); (2) David Tharp, Board of Trustees Chairman, on behalf of Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Defined Contribution Pension Trust Fund (the “Annuity Fund”); (3) David Tharp, Board of Trustees Co-Chairman, and William Nix, Board of Trustees Co-Chairman, on behalf of Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Welfare Fund (the “Welfare Fund”); (4) David Tharp, Board of Trustees Chairman, and Joe Coar, Board of Trustees Secretary, on behalf of Indiana Carpenters Apprenticeship Fund and Journeyman Upgrade Program (“JATC”); (5) Douglas J. McCarron, Board of Trustees Chairman, on behalf of United Brotherhood of Carpenters Apprenticeship Training Fund of North America (“UBCJA”); and (6) Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters (“the Union”). The Pension Fund, Annuity Fund, Welfare Fund, JATC, and UBCJA will be collectively referred to as the “Plaintiff Trust Funds.” The Plaintiff Trust Funds and the Union will be collectively referred to as the “Plaintiffs.”

         The Plaintiff Trust Funds initiated this action against Defendant Catron Interior Systems, Inc. (“Catron”), alleging violations of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132 and 1145, and the Union's claims were brought under 29 U.S.C. § 185. The dispute in this action surrounds Plaintiffs' request to compel Catron to allow the Plaintiffs' payroll auditor to examine all necessary books and records to complete a payroll audit for the period of January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2012, and to seek payment for any delinquent contributions uncovered by the audit.

         After the Court ordered Catron to submit to an audit, the Plaintiffs' auditor completed the audit for 2011 and 2012, and the Plaintiffs filed with the Court a status report on the auditor's findings. Catron filed a response, disputing the findings and conclusions of the auditor. On December 18, 2015, the parties appeared by counsel before the Court and presented evidence and argument in support of their positions on the alleged delinquent contributions and the results of the audit. On March 2, 2016, the Court issued its Order regarding the audit and the delinquent contributions owed to the Plaintiffs (Filing No. 74). The Court determined that Catron was liable to the Plaintiffs for $117, 740.15. However, this amount was offset by $95, 367.50 owed to Catron based on a series of market recovery fund grant contracts. Thus, the Court awarded Plaintiffs $22, 372.65. Id. at 11. The Plaintiffs filed a timely Motion for Reconsideration. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the Motion for Reconsideration.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Although motions to reconsider are not specifically authorized by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, courts in the Seventh Circuit apply Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) standards to these motions. Smith v. Utah Valley Univ., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70271, at *3-4 (S.D. Ind. June 1, 2015). A motion to alter or amend under Rule 59(e) “must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). If timely filed, a motion styled as a motion to reconsider should be considered under Rule 59(e). Kiswani v. Phoenix Sec. Agency, Inc., 584 F.3d 741, 742 (7th Cir. 2009). The Plaintiffs' “Motion for Reconsideration” was filed twenty-six days after the Court issued its Order. Therefore, the Court will analyze the Motion as a motion to alter or amend under Rule 59(e).

         The purpose of a motion to alter or amend judgment under Rule 59(e) is to ask the court to reconsider matters “properly encompassed in a decision on the merits.” Osterneck v. Ernst & Whinney, 489 U.S. 169, 174 (1989). “A Rule 59(e) motion will be successful only where the movant clearly establishes: (1) that the court committed a manifest error of law or fact, or (2) that newly discovered evidence precluded entry of judgment.” Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 954 (7th Cir. 2013) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Relief pursuant to a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend is an “extraordinary remed[y] reserved for the exceptional case.” Foster v. DeLuca, 545 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2008). A Rule 59(e) motion may be used “to draw the district court's attention to a manifest error of law or fact or to newly discovered evidence.” United States v. Resnick, 594 F.3d 562, 568 (7th Cir. 2010). A manifest error “is not demonstrated by the disappointment of the losing party. It is the wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.” Oto v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Furthermore, “a Rule 59(e) motion is not an opportunity to relitigate motions or present arguments, issues, or facts that could and should have been presented earlier.” Brownstone Publ'g, LLC v. AT&T, Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25485, at *7 (S.D. Ind. Mar. 24, 2009).

         II. DISCUSSION

         In the Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration, they assert the Court erred in three of its findings. First, by allowing Catron to assert its “setoff defense;” second, by not finding that Catron misrepresented facts when it claimed it had not been paid $95, 367.50 in market recovery funds, and if a setoff is warranted, any setoff should apply only to the Union and not to the Plaintiff Trust Funds; and third, the Court erred by discounting the amount of contributions owed to the Union based on a misunderstanding of information contained in Exhibit 5 (Filing No. 79 at 2-4).

         In its December 12, 2016 Entry on Motion for Reconsideration, the Court resolved the first issue raised by the Plaintiffs regarding any error in allowing Catron to assert its “setoff defense.” (See Filing No. 86 at 4-7.) The Court granted leave to Catron to amend its Answer and assert a counterclaim for setoff so that the pleadings would conform to the evidence presented at the original damages hearing. Catron filed its Amended Answer and Counterclaim on January 2, 2017 (Filing No. 87).

         The Court notes that it is not necessary to discuss the Plaintiffs' third argument-any setoff should apply only to the Union and not to the Plaintiff Trust Funds-because the Court determines that a setoff is not warranted.

         The Court turns to the Plaintiffs' argument that a setoff is not warranted because Catron misrepresented facts when it claimed it had not been paid $95, 367.50 in market recovery funds. The Plaintiffs assert that Catron was paid $95, 367.50 for the market recovery fund grants, and having been paid, Catron is not entitled to an additional payment via a setoff.

         With their Motion for Reconsideration, the Plaintiffs provided to the Court exhibits of payroll forms as well as a bank statement evidencing cancelled checks (Filing No. 79-1; Filing No. 79-2). The Plaintiffs also introduced evidence of two cancelled checks made payable to Catron dated March 29, 2011 and April 11, 2011, in the amounts of $93, 800.00 and $1, 567.50, totaling $95, 367.50 (Filing No. 79-1 at 3-4). Relying on these two checks, the Plaintiffs explain that Catron already has been paid the monies owed to it under the February 28, 2011 contracts for market recovery fund grants, and thus, Catron is not entitled to any setoff in this case.

         Catron responds that the March 29 and April 11, 2011 checks, totaling $95, 367.50, were for payment of market recovery funds related to union work performed in 2010, and this litigation concerns union work performed in 2011 and 2012. With its Response Brief, Catron submitted a sworn affidavit stating that it never received payment for the market recovery fund grants for the year 2011 (Filing No. 80-1). Thus, Catron argues, payment owed to Catron for the market recovery ...


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